How to stop the rot (riots)

I wonder if, David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, has been listening to your old pal Nick Margerrison on LBC 97.3. The front page of The Daily Mail seems to suggest he has come round to the fact that corporal punishment was a central cause of the problem:

Labour MP: Smacking ban led to riots

Quote from the article:
"‘Many of my constituents came up to me after the riots and blamed the Labour Government, saying, “You guys stopped us being able to smack our children.”
‘When this was first raised with me I was pretty disparaging. But I started to listen."

That's right, you were "pretty disparaging" because you're an MP and that's what you lot are like but I'm impressed that you finally started to listen. Good boy! You should listen more, I'm on every Saturday and Sunday morning at 1am.

Here's an article I wrote in the wake of the 2011 riots, published at the time on the LBC website, it's a reflection of my broadcasts in that period...

Bring back capital punishment? Get hundreds of police out on the street? Bring in zero tolerance? Sod it, lets get the army out on the streets! Give 'em guns and do some good old fashioned "peace keeping" Iraq style!!

No. Get a time machine, go back to 1987, and stop them from banning corporal punishment.

I do not classify myself as right wing or left wing. The intent of this blog entry is to convince you that corporal punishment in schools was a good idea. It might sound like one which belongs in the history books alongside other forgotten 'loony fringe' ideas but the generation of kids who are rioting are the first one we’ve had who were denied it. That's a fact but perhaps "kids" is the wrong word here as I'm using it to denote anyone under the age of about 35 who walks with the swagger of a child.

Charlie Brooker (lefty columnist in The Guardian): "Every looter was effectively a child chanting: "Give me my toys, I want more toys. Look at the p---- captured on video mugging the injured Malaysian student. Watch his unearned swagger as he walks away; the size of a man, yet he overdoes that swagger like a performing toddler. That's an idiot who never grew up."

Couldn't agree more, shame Charlie can't work out why that's the case. Anyone who saw these characters who smashed up our cities could not escape the child like nature of these people. The only commonality I could spot was they all looked under 35 and they were all out of control. It's important to remind Londoners, this happened all over the UK. Whatever the problem is that has caused it must therefore be something which effects people on a nationwide level and is specific to people of a certain age. Now, only an idiot would think there's a single cause but equally you'd have to be a fool not to think some causes are more significant than others.

Firstly, a word about control. There are two methods of it in our society, punishment and reward or to coin a phrase, the carrot and the stick. From 1987 onwards I watched, from the perspective of a child, the consequences of the stick being put to one side as corporal punishment was outlawed in this country. My primary school life was drawing to a close back then and I was preparing to go to the local comprehensive which was located in quite a rough working class area. However, there was something of a minor controversy before I left.

The Primary School I was at was run by a lovely woman who at the time I feared and respected. She was quite old fashioned and also overtly religious. Her attitude was that discipline in school was incredibly important. We knew that if we behaved badly we would be punished. We also knew that if we behaved very badly that punishment might be the dreaded ruler on the back of our hand. It was there as a threat, not to be used unless really required. In my time there I only ever remember it being used once. Lots of well meaning hippy type parents were outraged by this. I remember overhearing conversations between them talking about how this barbaric practice was going to be banned soon and that this crazy old woman shouldn’t be allowed to use force like that because it teaches kids to use violence to solve problems.

The “victims” of this violence were kids who had been naughty and ignored the teachers by playing in a dangerously flooded and clearly sealed off adventure playground. I watched my fellow classmates being punished through a window in horror, that year a law was passed which outlawed the practice. Soon after the teacher in question retired, laying footprints which I suspect many like her followed. Leaving us, in the end, with a new generation of teachers, some of whom cannot even remember how corporal punishment works let alone being in favour of it.

The next year I started at Secondary School. It was a very working class comprehensive school in the North of England. In my time there I noticed a gradual change in the attitude of my peers and those children coming up behind us. They started back chatting in a way I'd not previously heard before. "You can't touch me sir, I'll report you for assault" one of them shouted in a teacher's face. How cool it looked to the other kids as this towering six foot yob humiliated the poor man who was quite obviously frightened of him. I was incredibly impressed; because I was fourteen.

There and then I learned that teachers were not to be feared and respected by everyone. In fact this clever lad who’d challenged one had done so using something called ‘the law’ which gave him certain ‘rights’ to tell a poor old art teacher to f- off. To my fourteen year old mind this was incredible. As an adult I see it as profoundly depressing yet unfortunately relevant to the events of this month.

Back to the carrot and stick analogy. The kid in question fell foul of the law in later life. He did community service and last time I spoke to him he was on sickness benefit. He missed out on the rise of The New Labour Order at school and as a result he has only been given carrots in his adult life. His children though, he has four, are about to enter a school system where carrots are on the menu to entice some kids to just turn up.

At the risk of riding this metaphor into the gutter, we’ve run out of carrots these days and now there’s a generation of looters who appear to have decided to simply take 3D TV shaped ones from the shops of hardworking local businesses. Is it so hard to believe that this loot has been taken by people who do not understand the concept of punishment and believe they are always entitled to be rewarded?


Hello lefty! Listen, I know the above all seems really mean. It's never going to impress the fit hippy chick you're trying to make hay with or the well meaning guy with the beany hat who works in that new age shop you've been going to, so I think it's fair to add a little extra section here for you. Hope you don't mind. People who are comfortable going left or right as the situation requires can skip this...

Firstly, I know we were told that if they got rid of corporal punishment we'd have a less violent society. I know you still think that's true despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. However, there's a great book called Freakonomics which most of the chattering middle classes like you have read. In it the argument is made that that New York's crime problem was not solved by "zero tolerance," as people often suggest, but instead is down to the abortion and family planning policies which were implemented around 20 years earlier. The argument is that the generation of criminals who would have been getting into the peak of their 'careers' simply didn't exist to carry the baton on from the previous lot. Their would be parents had quite literally wished they'd never been born; a wish that those policies had granted. The root of this argument is that such policies take a while to show their impact upon society, that's all I'm saying about corporal punishment in schools.

The rioters two principle commonalities are youth and social class. I'll agree with you on the one hand, social decay and urban alienation are part of the problem. How about you accept that maybe the people who think that corporal punishment is part of it are right as well, then we can all get along?

But what about drugs?

Yep. We have a lot of common ground here. Legalise all recreational drugs. Pull the rug out from underneath criminal gangs by making the £8bn illegal drugs trade significantly less profitable by placing it in the hands of legitimate and therefore taxed businesses. However, the first step is restoring discipline in schools.

Hope that helps...



Nicholarse said…
Ok. Cheating a bit, this story is of course a direct result of an interview he gave on LBC 97.3 with my collegue Iain Dale.

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